UN urges 'humanitarian ceasefire' in Syria
Geneva - UN rights chief Navi Pillay on Tuesday called for an immediate ceasefire to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to crisis-hit Syria during a special meeting of government ministers in Geneva.
"There must be an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to end the fighting and bombardments," the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said at the opening of an urgently-arranged debate on Syria at a Human Rights Council meeting.
Pillay said since mid-February she had received reports of a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation and serious rights abuses, including a massive campaign of arrests by military and security forces.
Residents of cities such as Homs and Hama have been subjected to blockades preventing food, water and medical supply access.
"The Syrian army has reportedly used tanks, mortars, rockets and artillery to cordon off cities, and shelled densely populated neighbourhoods in what appears to be an indiscriminate attack on civilian areas," said Pillay.
"The crisis has exacerbated pre-existing high levels of poverty and unemployment. The humanitarian situation is dire."
Pillay said Syrian government figures provided to her office on February 15 put the number of civilians, soldiers and police officers killed between March 15 2011 and January 18 this year at 3 838.
"According to information available to my office, the actual numbers may far exceed these figures," said Pillay.
Human rights groups estimate that more than 7 600 have been killed since the crackdown on anti-government protesters began.